Pleural Plaques Compensation Update

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The Prime Minister has indicated that a decision will be announced after Easter regarding compensation for the asbestos illness known as pleural plaques.

Pleural plaques are a scarring of the lung walls. They are irreversible and are a characteristic sign that the victim has been exposed to significant quantities of asbestos fibres.

Currently you cannot claim compensation for pleural plaques following a House of Lords ruling over a year ago in October 2007. However it seems certain that the law will soon change in Scotland - the Scottish Parliament has recently voted overwhelmingly to overturn the Lords ruling. A Bill will soon become law enshrining the ability of pleural plaque sufferers north of the border to claim compensation.

Pleural plaques do not usually cause symptoms, however they are a warning of significant asbestos exposure and therefore victims of plaques have a greatly increased risk of developing much more serious asbestos related diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma or asbestos cancer. It is estimated that 1 in 17 people employed as a carpenter in the 1960s and 1070s will die of an asbestos related illness.

Historically many workers have chosen to claim provisional compensation on the discovery of plaques, this allows them to come back to court to have their compensation re-assessed should a more serious condition develop later on. It is much easier to have compensation reassessed having already won a case, than it is to start from scratch. The Insurance companies who have benefitted from the Lords decision understand only too well that when someone is very ill, often they do not wish to be troubled with litigation.

Victim support groups and trades unions in England and Wales have been outraged by the situation ever since the Court of Appeal first decided that pleural plaques were not an injury that caused harm back in January 2006. Increasing pressure has been put on the government in Westminster to step in and the impending change of law in Scotland has greatly added to the sense of injustice felt of victims.

The Prime Minister was asked what he intended to do for the many unfortunate people in England and Wales who had been negligently poisoned through exposure to asbestos.

Gordon Brown agreed that asbestosis was a terrible disease and responded "It is right that we look again as a result of legal actions that have been taken, about the obligations of insurance companies."

It is expected that a statement will be made after the Easter break. Tens of thousands of directly affected people and their families will be keenly awaiting this announcement.

As soon as the announcement is made we will publish further comment on our website.


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